Cross Keys Inn
Richard Bradley was born around 1776 and kept the Old Cross Keys with his wife Sarah. The couple were helped by 20 year-old Joseph Bradley, along with Julia Stanton, a young servant girl.
By the mid-1840's John Baker was the licensee of the Cross Keys Inn. In 1846, whilst he was tenant, the pub was put up for auction. The sale conducted by auctioneer Abiathar Bunch was held at the Cross Keys Inn on February 23rd 1846. The licensed house and premises were copyhold and comprised of a "front kitchen, front parlour, bar, back parlour, four cellars, four bedrooms, large clubroom, brewhouse, stable, pigsty, wash-cistern, and other outbuildings, with a large and productive garden, all in the occupation of Mr. John Baker." A second sale was held for another copyhold house and premises, adjoining the Cross Keys Inn, comprising a "front parlour, kitchen, cellar, two bedrooms, brewhouse, pigsty, garden, and other outbuildings," that were in the occupation of Mr. Joseph Beale. I suspect that this cottage later formed part of the Cross Keys.
This photograph shows the location of the Cross Keys in relation to the neighbouring Waggon and Horses and Miners' Arms. The latter is down the hill on the left-hand side of the photograph, whilst the Waggon and Horses is a few yards further along from the Cross Keys Inn. Here there is an open space between the pubs and this formed a car park for both houses. However, cottages once stood between the two public houses.
An advertisement for the sale of brewing plant and equipment appeared in the local press in 1862 when Joshua Price was giving up the house, revealing that the Cross Keys Inn was producing homebrewed ales. Two years later J. Ellis, a mortgagee of the property, applied for a licence for the pub but was refused in September 1864. One can only wonder if this left him high-and-dry? Whatever, James Hartill soon took over as publican of the Cross Keys.
James Hartill was born in Sedgley but had spent some of his early years at Darlaston. He married Elizabeth Rhodes in 1845 and moved to Gornal where he worked as a miner. James and Elizabeth kept the Cross Keys Inn and lived with two of their three daughters. It was Phyllis who married the blacksmith Thomas Bate in 1880 and that inaugurated the long period of the Bate name appearing above the front door of the house.
Thomas Bate took over the licence of the Cross Keys Inn whilst his father-in-law remained in residence of the house. James Hartill died in February 1893. The Bate family continued the tradition of selling homebrewed ales at the Cross Keys Inn. Thomas Bate pulled pints brewed by his son Clarence at the rear of the house.
The beers sold at the Cross Keys Inn changed when Black Country brewer Tommy Booth added the house to his small estate of tied houses supplied by the brewery at the rear of the Red Lion Inn.
The pub was later operated by the Myatt family that had acquired the Broadway Brewery at Shifnal. Concerned about the state of the property, the brewery hired Bertram Butler and Co., an architectural firm that conducted much work within the licensed trade, to inspect the Cross Keys Inn during February 1955. The firm reported that the pub was "very old, consisting partly of brick, and partly of stone" and concluded that it was riddled with damp and in a very poor condition. Despite remedial work being undertaken on a number of occasions, the building would suffer from damp for the rest of its days.
J. F. Tomkinson took over the tenancy of the Cross Keys on February 1st 1957. He had previously worked at Messrs. Garrington's Ltd. and moved into the pub with his wife and four children. However, citing poor trade, he was almost immediately in financial difficulties at the Cross Keys and this led to him being given notice to quit. He and his family later moved to Deepdale Lane, Lower Gornal. His brief foray into the licensed trade would continue to haunt him for years to come as the brewery brought legal action to recover their losses.
Sarah Ann Westwood applied for the tenancy of the Cross Keys in August 1958. A married woman living in New Street at Gornal Wood, she had previously worked as a barmaid at the Pear Tree Inn, a position she had held for ten years. She had earlier worked at Wolverhampton Die Casting at Graiseley Hill, Wolverhampton. Her husband, Joseph, was a miner at Baggeridge Colliery. Taking over the tenancy of the Cross Keys in November 1958, Sarah Ann Westwood was granted a licence on December 16th.
Commissioning Henry James Holden, a house and church decorator based in Broad Street, Bilston, the Broadway Brewery initiated some improvements, alterations and decorating at the Cross Keys in July 1959 but soon afterwards the property was transferred to the Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries Ltd. who were to operate the building under the Hanson's banner. However, I have only seen the livery of Banks's on this building so I am not sure if this was the case.
On taking over the Cross Keys, Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries Ltd. sent in their favoured surveyor of Bertram Butler to draw up a detailed plan of the property, along with proposed alterations to the house. The plans were drawn up on November 28th 1960. The key changes to the property included demolishing the derelict brewery building to the rear, creating a wine and spirit store by moving the kitchen upstairs, and by transforming the licensee's dining room into a customer space for women and children. The children's room had occupied a small room to the front of the pub and was accessed by a corridor. However, in earlier days, the front room to the left of the pub was a tap room. This room, lobby and hall were to be incorporated within a 'new' larger smoke room.
The alterations to the property were the result of an inspection of the Cross Keys by the local magistrates. Both the bar and smoke room had a separate servery, the latter also having a hatch window for an outdoor department. All in all, it was still an 'awkward' layout for a public house contained within such an old property but would satisfy the authorities who had also instructed the brewery to install a proper toilet facility for women. Access to the bar was still via the covered way into the rear yard, possibly enhancing the 'secretive' nature of the place. This was a domain for the locals!
Sarah Westwood remained as tenant of the Cross Keys during this work and throughout the 1960's. In 1970 she was succeeded by Kenneth Smith who kept the pub with his wife Kathleen. By all accounts, the couple kept the Cross Keys in good fashion and the house was a popular night out for the folks living in Gornal. Traditional entertainment and charity events helped to keep the till ringing nicely during the 1970's.
The events staged at the Cross Keys ensured the pub was often featured in the Dudley Herald. The piano and sing-a-longs were a staple of the pub's entertainment. Known as Kath to the locals, the hostess would do a few turns, her speciality being a Shirley Bassey number. They claim that entertainment was in her blood as she was the daughter of Percy Hickman, a local drummer and beer glass player. Her husband, and licensee, Ken Smith, had formerly worked as what locals would call a shovel mon at Jeavons's.
Ken and Kath Smith took on Margaret Lees to help at the pub and she was quite a character. At this time the children's room was a very popular haunt for local women and the room was dubbed 'The Clinic.' The regular customers included Frances Watkins, Nelly Heath, "Maddie" Gregg, and Stella Hughes. One of the eldest customers, Ellen Broster, would sometimes hold court in The Clinic and recount tales of local legends such as Anna Blackin, the pikelet seller, and Phoebe Tripe, a name to celebrate her tripe-selling days around Gornal.
Banging the piano keys during this period, arguably the last of the pub's great days, was Jean Harris. She is pictured in the next column with the pub singer Toni Martel who spent many a happy hour in the Cross Keys. Jean could play most of the popular songs of the previous 20-30 years and many a customer would do a 'turn.' Ex-serviceman and postman, Gordon Harris, was one such customer. The Watkins brothers, "Coggy" Stan and Philip, would also get up to entertain the regulars.
Other customers concentrated on their Banks's ale. Teddy Cox, a miner for many years at Baggeridge pit, was a loyal customer at the Cross Keys, as was his father Will who had worked underground for almost 60 years before retiring in 1976. Teddy Cox was one of the crib team who played at the Cross Keys. He would often have a drink with George Jones, a local pigeon racer.
In January 1976 it was agreed by board members to purchase an adjoining piece of land for the sum of £150. The management's reasoning for the acquisition was it would make things easier if the brewery decided to rebuild one large pub on the site in order to replace the Cross Keys and Waggon and Horses.
In 1986 another plan was drawn up for Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries Ltd. by T. A. Poultney for a proposed car park that was to serve both the Waggon and Horses and Cross Keys utilising the land owned by the brewery and to be laid out on the sites of the former adjacent cottages.
John Connell was mine host in the late 1980's. He later moved to the River Don Hotel at Eastoft, near Scunthorpe. On March 20th 1990 he handed over the keys to the pub to Barry and Sheila Flavell. This couple kept the Cross Keys for six years and proved to be popular with the locals. They themselves had only moved a short distance from their former home at No.70 Summer Lane.
The tenancy was due to change again on October 2nd 1995 when Russell Lamb of The Fold was to take over at the Cross Keys. However, a new pub operator took over the house on March 5th 1996 when it passed to Chrysalis Taverns of Hall Green. Paying an annual rent of £6,000, the company installed Mrs Vivienne Wafer as manager and she took over as licensee on May 2nd 1996.
The change of operator signalled the beginning of the end as the pub was being supported by Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries Ltd. with continual repairs and renovations to what was a fairly dilapidated building. The trend of small operators around this period wasn't far short of neglect. The tenure of Chrysalis Taverns was brief and the Cross Keys was handed over to Marpletime Limited of Leicester. Their involvement was also short-lived and on March 2nd 1997 a new tenancy agreement was drawn up for Mrs. Gillian Evans of Gornal Social Club in Lake Street.
By 1998 Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries Ltd. were looking to dispose of the land and building, with residential being the most likely alternative use for the site. It was the same story at the neighbouring Waggon and Horses, though that pub did survive longer than the Cross Keys. By February 1999 the pub was placed on a schedule of disposals. The outlet had been caught trading during illegitimate hours and was on the local authority's radar after a number of incidents in the pub.
The Cross Keys officially ceased trading on Friday February 12th, 1999. The pub
suffered a final indignity when it was the victim of an arson attack in the
Spring of 2000. On March 13th 2001 the building and land was sold to Clive
Fletcher, a property developer based at
Kidderminster. The Cross
Keys was demolished in May 2001, bringing to an end its long history on Ruiton
Street. The land was subsequently sold to Saxonhurst Developments of
and housing was later erected on the site of the pub.